Have you ever struggled with what to say in between songs as a worship leader? I do not think worship leaders need to say much, but sharing brief thoughts in between songs can significantly help your congregation connect the dots in worship and encourage them to engage. I usually have one or two places in the worship song set list where I will share a thought or lead the congregation in prayer.
Planning and leading songs is an important pastoral role of a worship leader. For me, that’s the easy part. Lately, I have been pushing myself to pastor my congregation in between songs, and I want to help you do the same. Here are five things you can say in between songs as a worship leader.
1 - Call to Worship
At the beginning of worship, you can remind the congregation why they are at church and why you are about to engage in worship. Where I lead worship, we play an opening song that lets everyone know worship is starting, so I do not say much before the first song.
After the first song, we have a brief time of welcome and announcements. It’s usually less than a minute, and it is when we welcome first-time visitors. If it were up to me, we would not do announcements during the service at all.
Then we transition into our set of worship songs. This is when I will say something to the congregation that reminds them about the purpose of worship and invites them to participate, or we read a call to the worship from the book of Psalms.
One of our responsibilities as worship leaders is to give our congregation a compelling reason for why they should engage. People are coming into worship distracted by life situations, the 24/4 hour stream of media they have in their pocket, or what they are going to eat for lunch, and we need to help them focus on God. I’ll say something like,
This morning I want to invite you to engage in our time of worship by singing and focusing all of your attention on God. The next hour is not a time to be a spectator, but a time to remind ourselves of the truth of the Gospel and give God the thanks he deserves. Allow God to work in your life this morning by being present and active in this time of worship.
2 - Song explanation
Some of the best things to say in a worship service come from explaining songs. There are remarkable songs being written today, but for your congregation member who is hearing a song for the first time, it can be difficult to process the lyrics while learning how to sing it. In 10-20 seconds, you can shed light on song meaning for your congregation.
For example, a few weeks ago we played the song, “Touch the Sky” by Hillsong United. I happen to think this is a well-written worship song. I also believe that this song needs a little bit of context for people to understand what it is about. It is a song inspired by the Sermon on the Mount and the upside-down nature of God’s Kingdom. If you want to be first, be last. If you want to be great, be the least. If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn to the other. Love your enemies. If you want to find your life, lose it. The lyrics of Touch the Sky brilliantly express this theme from the Sermon on the Mount, but that is not immediately apparent if you are never given the context. Before singing this song, I would say,
We are going to sing a song that reminds us of the upside-down nature of God’s Kingdom. The world tells us that if we are to advance or make progress in life, we need to acquire more, become greater, and more independent. The way of God’s Kingdom is much different. If you want to ascend in status, you must descend. If you want to be great, humble yourself. If you want to find life, be willing to give it up. This is tough stuff, but it’s how God does incredible work in our life. Let’s sing this together.
3 - Personal Story
Sharing personal stories are a great way to allow your congregation to get to know you so that they trust you and want to follow you. I like sharing personal experiences that are super brief, and I can leverage them to make a teaching point about worship. For example, one time I shared something like this,
Friday evening my wife and I went to a Rockies game at Coors Field. Honestly, I’m not that into baseball and I find it quite boring. But I love when it gets to the seventh inning stretch. Although it is so routine, there is something powerful about all 40,000 people standing and singing “take me out to the ball came" together. I transformed from a passive spectator to being a passionate bandwagon fan for all of two minutes singing that song. Singing is powerful, and that’s why we do it together at church. But we have a much greater reason and purpose other than sports tradition. We get to unify our voices together to praise God.
4 - Prayer of invocation
Prayer of invocation is a fancy way of referring to a prayer that asks God to be present with us in worship and transform us. That’s the essence and goal of Sunday worship. We want God to transform us whether it’s through the preached Word, communion, or singing songs. All of it is worship, and all of it has tremendous power when God is present and working through it. Sometimes in between songs I pray,
God we ask for your presence to move powerfully this morning. We need it badly. We are broken people. We need to be made new. Speak your truth to us through your Word. Remind us of your love for us through Jesus. Shape our hearts, so we love you more and love our neighbors more. We know that you are living, and active. You have the power to change anything.
5 - Prayer of confession and assurance
One thing the contemporary church in America lacks on Sunday morning is a good dose of honesty concerning the human condition. Personally, I have seen God do the most work in my life when I confess my sins. As worship leaders, we want to help our congregation get in the habit of confessing their sins. To clarify, I think there are two forms of confession. First, you confess your sins in a personal setting to a trusted friend or mentor. Everyone must have this as a part of their private life. The second type of confession is corporate. Corporate confession is when we as a church body acknowledge together how we have wronged God and our neighbor. That’s the kind of confession which I am advocating we lead our congregation. I think we need to help them learn the language of confession and help them practice admitting their sinfulness by doing it corporately as a body. Then that will translate into a greater willingness to do it in their personal lives. Sometimes this may be a prayer I lead them in.
God, as we worship you this morning, we are in awe of your greatness and holiness. But, we look at ourselves and realize how far we have fallen short. We have wronged you, and we have wrong our neighbors. We ask for your forgiveness, and we ask that by the power of your Holy Spirit we will walk in your ways and live life as you intended.
Sometimes I use a traditional prayer of confession reading like the one in the Book of Common Prayer. It’s always important to follow up a prayer of confession with an assurance of forgiveness. Maybe read a Bible verse about forgiveness through Jesus or sing a song after that emphasizes forgiveness. We never want the congregation to be stuck navel gazing in their sinfulness but be inspired and moved by the hope of the Gospel!
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Whatever you say in between songs, I encourage you to keep it brief and put some thought into preparing what you will say. If you found this article helpful, give it a like and share your love in the comments. I’d love to hear your feedback on this topic. What are some other things you say to your congregation in between songs? How much talking or praying is too much talking or praying from the worship leader? What is your greatest hindrance to speaking in between songs?